It’s not every day a congregation welcomes a new lead pastor into its church. It’s an even rarer event to be part of that pastor’s ordination ceremony. Michael Ten Haken and the members of the Christian Reformed Church of Pease were able to do just that as the new pastor took his vows to the CRC denomination at a ceremony Sunday.
Since joining the church in late July, Ten Haken said the church and community members have pulled out all the stops on the welcome wagon.
“We’re getting settled in nicely,” Ten Haken said last week, just days before his ordination. “It seemed like a really good fit right from the start to me.”
Ten Haken, his wife of 16 years, Jessica, and their children Zachary, 14, Bethany, 12, and Alex, 4, moved in right next door to the Christian Reformed Church this summer.
“We like small-town living,” he said. “It’s good for us. But I was interested in the type of church and where I could serve best rather than geography.”
Born and raised in the denomination, Ten Haken said he knew he was going to be a pastor in the CRC, but his path wasn’t always so clear.
“I went back to school later in life,” Ten Haken said.
After forging a career in marketing and public relations for the private, Christian Dort College in Sioux Center, Iowa, Ten Haken said he felt the pull to do something else, which wasn’t entirely a new concept for him.
“Before that, I was a banker,” he said. “And before that, I was in admissions at the college.”
By this point, however, Ten Haken was married, and with a family to support, the plan of starting over as a college student required a little more thought.
“So we started looking into it and it turns out that people do this all the time,” he said, laughing. “When you’re a parent and a husband, a lot of things come into play. But the Lord really blessed us through it all. My kids would even say it was a good experience for them.”
Ten Haken packed up the family and moved from Iowa to Michigan, where he enrolled in the master of divinity program at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids.
“I felt a strong sense of calling toward it,” he said. “I hope (my family) learned to trust where God takes us. It certainly taught me that; to not be afraid; to let go of some of those ‘what-ifs.’”
When asked what his plans are for the CRC in Pease, Ten Haken doesn’t waste time with cliches about growth or massive schemes to unveil dramatic changes.
“My goals for this congregation are to just make sure that we’re receptive to where God is leading us,” Ten Haken said. “I don’t have this grand vision of where this congregation should be in five or 10 years. It’s more of whether we’re willing to enter this journey together and see where we end up — see where He leads us.”
Likewise, Ten Haken doesn’t pretend to know what types of obstacles the church will face in the future.
“One of the biggest challenges will be just to remember everybody’s name. It’s a big congregation,” he said with a laugh. “It’s getting to know everyone and developing a relationship of trust and being able to share our lives together in a meaningful way. I don’t have an agenda. I don’t want to presume that my vision, that what I want to happen, is what ought to happen. I want to arrive at those decisions together.”
Ten Haken was excited about the ordination ceremony last week as the day he’d been working toward for the past several years finally approached.
“In some sense, this congregation took a chance on me,” he said. “I’m a rookie, and I appreciate them giving me that opportunity. I’m very grateful.”
It was with the same humility that Ten Haken and his family have approached the overwhelming amount of support the Christian Reformed Church of Pease has shown them.
“People here have just been fantastic about helping us and making us feel welcome,” he said. “They’re excited about us. We’re excited about them. We’re just grateful to be here and we’re really looking forward to being an active part of the communities.”